Category: Technology

Why Scrivener is great for Nanowrimo

You might well have heard of Scrivener if you’ve been in the writing community for long. Before the current proliferation of online writing software, it was the go-to app (indeed, before people spoke of “apps” at all). It’s somewhat complicated, but you don’t need to use all the features to get a great benefit out of it. Here’s my top reasons to use it for Nano, only 11 days too late to be useful!

1. Full screen mode.

You can set a background for each project and write in focus mode—especially valuable when you’re trying to get down almost 2,000 words a day! For my current WIP, about a magic ballroom in Vienna, this is how it looks when I write:

focus mode

You can customize the size of the font, the width of the “paper,” and whether you use “typewriter” mode, which keeps your current line in the middle of the screen to save your neck. Here’s how to change it for the current project:

on Windows, View menu -> Full Screen Backdrop -> Choose…

2. Each scene is a document.

scenesWhen you “compile” (turn your project into another format, such as a Word document or ePub book), scene breaks (e.g., “* * *”) are automatically added between documents. For Nanowrimo, I wrote my first draft as unsorted scenes (see picture to the right).

3. Create chapters automatically

chaptersEach “document” in Scrivener is a scene, so each folder is a chapter. I write my scenes first, then reorder them according to Three-Act Structure, and then group them into chapters based on length and scene ending.

In the picture at left, “Part 1: Setup” is a note to myself that I leave out when I compile, but if you wanted to divide your book into parts or sections, you could include them. Then Chapter 1 is automatically created and titled with the name of the folder (you can specify the format, but for manuscripts I use “Chapter 1: Change in Policy”).

4. Snapshots

The whole project is automatically backed up locally (by default, whenever you close the app), and I save the project to OneDrive so that it’s also backed up in the cloud (Google Drive and DropBox, etc., would work the same). But what I love most is being able to capture and label specific versions of scenes, especially as I’m drafting. Never lose a great idea again! You can view or roll back to a snapshot at any time.

a screenshot from Scrivener of 6 dated and labeled drafts of a scene
an example of snapshots from a scene I’ve edited a lot

5. Scrivener loves Nano!

The free Scrivener trial is 30 days (not consecutive calendar days, either, but 30 days of use!). Participants get a discount to buy it at the end, and winners get an even bigger one. Give it a try! And feel free to tweet me @AbigailFair if you have any questions. I have a lot of experience with both Word and Scrivener! (Albeit mostly on Windows.)

How to see word counts in Scrivener’s corkboard

Author Kimmery Martin asked to see word counts in corkboard view for Scrivener. While I’m not positive this is what she wanted, it sounded like a helpful feature, so I tried to figure out a way to do it.

First, I’ll show you how I do it. I have my scenes and chapters organized in the Binder and I click to different levels to see the word count at the bottom of the main editor window, which is in “Scrivenings” view (i.e., viewing the text).image

I can adapt that same strategy to see word counts in corkboard mode. First, create a vertical split view by using the buttons in the upper right corner of the editor.image

Set the center editor to corkboard view, then click on the button to sync the two editor panes.image

Set the right-hand editor to text/Scrivenings view.image

When you click on a group in the corkboard, it will sync to the text view and let you view the word count at the bottom. (Click the picture to enlarge it.)Screenshot of Scrivener showing the same chapter in multiple views

The problem is that drilling down to see the scene-level word count isn’t easy. If what you want is to see metadata (label, synopsis, status, etc.), then outline view might be what you want for the middle section (which also lets you move more seamlessly between scene and chapter (updating the right-hand editor and word count as you go).image

(To customize what you see in Outline view, go to View menu > Outliner Columns. There are many options available!)

How cheap do you need “Cars as a Service” to be?

So this is off my usual topic, but I found it interesting! I wrote a thing for my friend’s technology blog on how much I could afford to pay for Cars as a Service and still break even with my current spending. You should go read it! (Takes less than 5 minutes).

Here’s a public version of the calculator I used (which I unfortunately couldn’t figure out how to embed in the article itself). Fill in the green cells. You can either fill in the amortized cost section or put a year’s worth of car payments in the “Vehicle” cost cell. The commute calculator is just to help you guess your annual total miles.